For those who are trying to distinguish the difference between a simple open gym/voluntary activity and an official practice, the information below will provide some guidance in making the distinction.
A practice is defined as an activity that has been organized and/or directed by a member of the coaching staff, volunteers included, in which (1) sport-specific equipment is used and/or (2) instruction and/or evaluation of the athlete takes place. All other forms of activity would not be considered an official practice. For example, activity that the students do on their own, without instruction or direction from the coaching staff would not be considered a practice. We understand that there are many circumstances that would require coaches to be in the vicinity of student’s voluntary activity for a legitimate purpose and that can blur the line between an official practice and an activity participated in at the student’s discretion.
We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions to help clarify the difference between official practice and voluntary activity.
Q: I am the assistant basketball coach and part of my employment responsibilities is being a facility supervisor for the gymnasium. Since my job requires that I be present while any activity is happening, does a voluntary open gym that our players are participating in become an official practice?
A: Not necessarily, but it depends on what you do during the open gym. In other words, during that open gym are you acting strictly in the role of gym supervisor, or in your role as coach? If you have a legitimate purpose as gym supervisor to be there and limit your involvement to that role, then it would not be considered a practice. You should only be present on the court as much as is absolutely necessary, and you should avoid watching (i.e. evaluating) the open gym as much as possible.
If it’s not required of you as supervisor to be on the court and you sit in the bleachers watching (rather than going to your office or doing other work in the facility), you have now gone outside your role of supervisor and crossed over into your role as coach. It would now become one of your 24 weeks.
Q: As a basketball coach, I’m in charge of the gym schedule. I made arrangements for the gym to be open from 7:00-9:00am for my players and communicated to them that they are free to use the gym for pick-up games. I will not be present during that time. Does this count as “organizing” and therefore count as an official practice?
A: Yes. As a member of the coaching staff, you organized an event in which sport-specific equipment will be used. This is not considered an open gym that you organized as part of your larger institutional responsibilities, as it is not open to anyone besides the basketball team. This would be considered a practice.
If you had arranged for an open gym to take place at that time and it was available and advertised to the entire student body, it would not be considered a practice.
Q: Our competition swimming pool is located in the general student recreation center and used by everyone on campus. I’m a swim coach and also work as a lifeguard and swim instructor at the pool. Whenever someone is in the pool, regardless of skill level, a staff member has to be in the chair guarding the pool. If I am on lifeguard duty and our swimmers are doing workouts on their own, does this now become a practice because I am there?
A: No, as long as you do not direct or instruct the activity in any way. Part of your job description requires you to be poolside at this time. The circumstances that require you to be in attendance are safety related and would cause you to act in an observatory manner with any group of individuals in the facility.
Q: Our team has worked really hard this preseason and we are going to give them the week of Thanksgiving off from activity. We will only do a couple of video sessions to look at technique from the fall. Since we are not going to do any athletic activity like a normal practice, do we have to count this week in our 24-week season?
A: Yes, this week would count towards your 24-week season., video review is a form of “evaluation of athletes” and therefore must be counted in your 24-week season.
Q: Our coaching staff is going to be out of town at our annual coaches convention for a week prior to the start of the winter break. We planned out our weeks early in the fall, and decided that this week would be an “off” week and the start of one of our three break periods. Upon learning that we were going to be gone and no practice conducted, the captains approached the coaching staff and asked if they could run practice in our absence. Would we have to count this week as one of our 24 weeks?
A: No, you would not have to count this week. The bylaw reads that an activity will count as a practice if it is organized or directed by an identified member of the coaching staff. In this case, the activity wasn’t organized or directed by anyone on the coaching staff and would not count towards practice limits.
Q: Follow up question: Since the entire coaching staff will be out of town and the captains will be conducting activity, can we give practice instructions to our captains so they are working on the things we want them to be working on?
A: Yes, but if you do, it will meet the definition of a practice and count towards your 24 weeks. By providing the drills or practice instructions that you want followed, you are directing what happens during the practice. Even though you’re not physically present for the practice, if you organize or direct the event it will be considered a practice.
The following are simple guidelines to ensure that your student’s voluntary activity does not default into an official practice.
• Do not organize the activity
• Do not supervise the activity
• Do not observe and evaluate athletes if your presence at the activity is for a legitimate purpose
Do you have more questions about this topic? Join our Periscope presentation on Oct 6th at 12pm cst. Or ask us questions is the comments section below.